A Matter of LifeI really love Jeffrey Brown’s works. From Darth Vader & Son to Clumsy to Funny Misshapen Body, his work is always wonderfully told and illustrated. Consistently heartwarming with moments of melancholy as well as laughter, Brown’s newest autobiographical book, A Matter of Life, is a study of fatherhood and faith told in Jeffrey’s delicate and touching way.

Three decades of Brown men grace this story – Jeff, his son Oscar, and his Dad, Grandpop Brown. I am not someone’s son, plus I’ve only had sisters, so it provided an interesting look at the dynamics in the relationships between fathers and sons. Throw into the mix that this story is also relating the tale of Jeff questioning his faith and the idea of God in tandem with his father’s work as a minister and you see that it brings a whole other dynamic to the already complicated relationship between the two. Readers are taken on a journey from the past to the present of Jeff’s life and, although the story is not told in a linear fashion, it is no less understandable and relatable in the reader’s mind. I wondered if this story would speak to me as clearly as a daughter, but relationships with mothers seem to be quite similar and hold the same pitfalls and rewards as those between dads and sons.

Jeffrey’s illustration style is a further extension of his sweet and lyrical prose. I can’t imagine reading his words without also seeing his visual interpretation of what he is writing. He sticks to very basic 9-12 square panels per page, each filled to the brim with exquisite detail and colors. His books are very character based. The people he draws are well distinguished from one another and, although cartoonish in nature, are drawn in a very realistic capacity. His drawings mark the epitome of what it would look like if we were all turned into cartoon characters in a book. His coloring shows the world as it is, truly lighted and detailed. Indicative of the real world, Jeff’s drawn world shows the color of life in all its varying tones.

His thought and speech bubbles are clear and easy to follow. They are not generically lettered; he literally writes the text in the bubbles which brings a realistic quality to the written word. He adds emotions to the written text in the way that he adds texture and movement to the letters themselves. He also shows great movement and action in his people. Action words, variations in coloring, and body placement go very far in making the two-dimensional drawings seemingly animated. Emotions are also well conveyed through expressions and added dimensions drawn around the head and face.

Jeffrey Brown’s A Matter of Life will stay with you long past the last page. It will make you think about your own familial relationships as well as those relationships you have with faith and science. A highly recommended read for older teens and adults; sons and daughters; mothers and fathers.

A Matter of Life
by Jeffrey Brown
ISBN: 9781603092661
Top Shelf, 2013

  • Traci

    | She/Her

    Traci has been a graphic novel selector and collections coordinator for kids and teens in libraries in Arizona and Oregon since 2005. She served as the chair of YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee, and served as a member of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens blogging team. She previously coordinated the Oregon Young Adult Network’s Graphic Rave list, OYAN’s yearly list of the best graphic reads for teens. Traci is a member of ALA, YALSA, and GNCRT. And, she achieved her greatest dream ever by serving as a judge for the 2019 Eisner Awards.

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